It is a dark day for the NY Senate. This blog agrees with the NY Public Interest Research Group.
The federal trial of the former Senate Majority Leader pulled back the curtain on Mr. Bruno’s shocking use of his public office for private gain, including using taxpayer resources to help build his business empire, relying on Senate staff for his private business dealings and using state offices to hold sales-pitch meetings. Through it all Mr. Bruno concealed his true business dealings from other lawmakers, voters and the general public. Some of his actions have been found illegal by a federal jury.
Regardless of the verdict, what is abundantly clear is that New York’s legislative ethics is rotten. How else could Senator Bruno think, correctly or otherwise, that he could deceive the public in the disclosure of his outside employment? Or run his private business out of his taxpayer-funded offices – all the while using the Senate’s professional staff to help him in his enterprise?
The system needs radical overhaul. Here are four steps:
1. New York State needs an independent ethics watchdog that is not beholden to the legislature or its leaders.
2. There must be clear guidelines prohibiting lawmakers’ use of taxpayer dollars to benefit their private business enterprises.
3. Disclosure requirements must require lawmakers to publicly report the names of business clients and provide sufficient detail on the identity of direct and indirect clients, the nature of the work, and compensation.
4. There must be a complete ban on lawmakers appearing before governmental entities—including the type of activities Senator Bruno engaged in, like matching up clients and government agencies.
5. Lawmakers must demonstrate that they can conduct their private business in a transparent and ethical manner, free from conflicts, or such income should be banned altogether.
Lastly, action must occur quickly. The Assembly has passed legislation that covers some of these topics, but so far the Senate has not acted. Negotiations must lead to a new law as quickly as possible to set a new ethical environment in Albany.
Here is a piece from Common Cause
"The lax atmosphere has not only been indicted but now convicted, and it just really underlies how no one up there has an idea of what’s right and what’s wrong," said Common Cause/NY Executive Director Susan Lerner.